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Fossil or not-a-fossil?

Contest: citizen geologists challenged to find fossils at Quidi Vidi

By Kelly Foss

What’s better than finding fossils?

Finding fossils and winning a prize!

The Johnson Geo Centre, in collaboration with the Faculty of Science’s Department of Earth Sciences, is challenging the public to play Fossil or Not-a-Fossil and help search for early animal life in the walls and breakwaters around Quidi Vidi Lake in St. John’s.

“The rocks of the Avalon Peninsula are world famous for their Ediacaran fossils of early animals from around 560 million years ago,” said Dr. Duncan McIlroy, Department of Earth Sciences, Faculty of Science, and director, Bonne Bay Marine Station, at Memorial.

The most famous places to find them are at Mistaken Point, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Discovery UNESCO Global Geopark on the Bonavista Peninsula.

In the video below, Dr. McIlroy explains to viewers how to determine what is and is not a fossil and invites the public to search for early animal life in the stone walls and breakwaters of Quidi Vidi Lake.

“It’s known that rocks of the right age also occur around St. John’s,” said Dr. McIlroy. “In fact, the first description of a fossil from the Ediacaran period was based on 550-million-year-old fossils from Duckworth Street. There are even older rocks in the area, some of which have spectacularly complex fossils in them.”

Last week, Memorial University’s Palaeobiology Research Group, in the Department of Earth Sciences, identified rocks from the older Ediacaran strata in the armour-stone that protects the pathways around Quidi Vidi Lake.

Those rocks preserve evidence of seafloor structures due to microbial growth as well as fossils. The most common are holdfast-like concentric attachment discs, but rare fractal-like fronds can also be discovered.

Anyone who finds an interesting structure they think might be a fossil is invited to upload an image of themselves with it and tagging the Johnson Geo Centre’s Facebook or Instagram page, or their Twitter feed, including a caption of where it was found.

A closeup of a fossil on grey stone.
A closeup of the 570-million-year-old-animal fossil fossil in this story’s video.
Photo: Submitted

An expert palaeontologist from Memorial will review the submissions and determine if it’s a “fossil or not-a-fossil.”

All participants who submit photos that are authenticated to be of a fossil will be entered into a draw for prizes from the Faculty of Science and the Johnson Geo Centre.

The deadline for submitting photos is Friday, Nov. 26, at noon with prize draws taking place that afternoon.

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